As the need to provide virtual instruction increases, districts must continue to engage in best practices for delivery of instruction. The National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes (NDC) has published, Online Learning: Benefits and Barriers, which is a summary of research on this topic and Remember Accessibility in the Rush to Online Instruction: 10 Tips for Educators which gives good information for considerations for making sure all students can receive benefit from the instruction provided.
Virtual Education for Students who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing
Providing all students with virtual instruction takes an immense amount of planning along with the technology and knowledge of how to use it effectively. Planning for online or distance learning includes making sure the instruction is accessible as well as appropriate. It is imperative that districts consider the highly-specialized needs of students who are deaf and hard of hearing when making the decision to teach outside of the classroom walls. The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) has published information to their members and shared some resources curated by their Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE) for engaging in virtual learning activities. The CEC’s Division for Communication, Language and Deaf/Hard of Hearing has also published a document titled, Teaching Remotely to DHH Students which gives examples of online lessons and strategies for successful implementation. Additionally, Texas’s Deaf/Hard of Hearing Services department has also put together a LiveBinder of resources for virtual activities, which not only has tools for successfully transitioning to online learning, but also topic-specific activities for learning. Districts may want to consult the Universal Design for Learning Guidelines for planning for instruction that is both accessible and efficient for all learners.
Equitable access to language is mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to ensure students with disabilities have an opportunity to receive equal benefit from instruction - whether that is face-to-face, online, or a combination of both.
There are many supports that make distance learning more accessible for all students, including those who are D/HH. For many students, virtual learning will not be a platform with which they are familiar.
The most significant barrier to virtual learning for students who are D/HH is access to auditory information. For students that require accommodations to access auditory information (through an interpreter or Communication Access Realtime Translation i.e. CART), these services/supports can be incorporated into the virtual environment to meet federal and state mandates and in accordance with students’ Individual Education Plans (IEPs).